Great Malvern Victorian Town

Great Malvern Victorian Town

Great Malvern is a lovely Victorian spa town that is steeped in history and architecture, with the added backdrop of the magnificent Malvern Hills.

Great Malvern in WorcestershireGreat Malvern today, offers spectacular walking on the Malvern Hills, an impressive Priory, culture and entertainment at the Malvern Theatre, the popular factory tour of the iconic Morgan sports car, and plenty of history to immerse your self into.

Back in the mid-1800’s Great Malvern offered special therapeutic qualities due to its many springs, and emerged as the centre for Spa treatments. (A Georgian fancy was to ‘take the waters‘). The Victorian popularity of the water cure quite simply transformed Malvern from a village into a ‘Water Cure’ town.

Two Doctors from Austria, named Gully and Wilson introduced hydrotherapy ‘the water cure‘ by building the first water cure house in 1845. This created an influx of visitors which spurred the need for accommodation and social recreation to rival Spa towns such as Bath and Cheltenham. Today there is no longer a need for the water cure, Great Malvern Worcestershirehowever many of the impressive buildings built during that time are still in use today.

The influence of Great Malvern is largely Victorian, however, its roots go back much further. Running along the Malvern Hills are Iron and Bronze Age forts and tracks, and Great Malvern itself was just a collection of small cottages until the Middle Ages. The Priory Church is the oldest part of the town and was founded in 1085 when Benedictine monks settled here and built the Priory; a daughter house to Westminster Abbey.

Great Malvern continued to grow in popularity and even after the water cure demand had declined, George Bernard Shaw and Edward Elgar continued to bring Great Malvern fame during the 20th Century through their music and theatre festivals.

Other famous people who came to visit Great Malvern during the heydey of the Water Cure were:

  • Charles Darwin visited on a number of occasions and his 10-year-old daughter Annie who sadly died in Great Malvern is buried in Great Malvern Priory churchyard.
  • Jenny Lind the “Swedish Nightingale” lived for some years at Wynds Point below British Camp.
  • C. S. Lewis went to school at Malvern College and drew inspiration from the Malvern gas lamps for elements of the story of “The Chronicles of Narnia”. Lewis also introduced
  • J. R. R. Tolkien to the College’s Head of English,
  • George Sayer and the “Lord of the Rings” was first put down on tape at his Malvern home.
  • Peter Mark Roget famous for his Thesaurus, died whilst on holiday in the area and is buried in the churchyard of St. James’ in West Malvern.
  • Sir Charles Hastings founder of the British Medical Association, lived in Barnards Green House on Poolbrook Road.
  • Dame Laura Knight the famous impressionist painter, often visited Malvern, staying at the Mount Pleasant Hotel.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of America, convalesced at Aldwyn Towers in 1889 aged 7 years.
  • During the 20th century, Haile Selassie stayed at the Abbey Hotel in the 1930s during his exile.
  • Many of these visitors are commemorated by “Blue & Green Plaques” placed by the Malvern Civic Society on buildings associated with their Malvern connections.

Great Malvern Priory

The-Priory-in-MalvernThe Malvern Priory dates back to 1085 and offers an impressive English medieval architecture and many treasures are revealed throughout. Inside there are massive Norman pillars, an impressive famous east window, misericord seats carved with lively and entertaining scenes, and tiles of many designs. The Priory was built for thirty monks and was much smaller than it is today. This impressive building stands as a testimony to the faith of many generations and has done so ever since Aldwyn founded it as a Benedictine Priory in 1085. It was a monastery for over 450 years and went through difficult times. In 1541 the local people purchased the Priory for £20 to save it from destruction and since then it’s been the parish church at the centre of Great Malvern.

You can read more about the history of the Priory and opening times here

Great Malvern Theatre

Malvern Theatre Today the Malvern Theatre is a major centre for the arts across the West Midlands. Home to the famous Malvern Festivals founded by Bernard Shaw and Barry Jackson in 1929. The theatre was awarded a lottery-funded refurbishment in 1997 and today enjoys a diverse selection of plays, music, comedy, dance, film and education work all under one roof. At the rear of the complex is Priory Park, which houses a Victorian Band Stand which is still used during the summer months along with a picturesque duck pond and children’s play area.

The attraction of Great Malvern today is its unspoilt beauty and the glimpse of past Victoriana. With many working GAS lamps throughout the town, stunning views of the Malvern Hills and Severn Valley and the vibrant music and theatre complex makes Malvern and the surrounding area a great destination for the whole family.

St Ann’s Well and Holywell

St-Anns-Well- Malvern

St Ann’s Well Cafe

There are plenty of wells in and around Malvern and many are well-concealed, but St Ann’s Well and Holywell have impressive buildings to house their spring water wells. Take the steep climb to St Ann’s Well from Malvern town and enjoy some delicious refreshments at the small cafe and read the story board of how the well came about.

Holy well

In 1622 the monks at Great Malvern Priory used the water from the Holywell to benefit the town’s sick and elderly. For centuries the water was bottled at this site and used locally until 1843 when Mr Schweppes came to Malvern and commercialised Malvern Water at the Holywell Spring. When Queen Victoria was introduced to Malvern Water at the Great Exhibition, she gave it a royal appointment and it has remained a favourite with the British Royal Family ever since.

Holy Well MalvernIn 2009 Mike and Rhys Humm re-launched the bottling works at the Spring to offer a better service to the Queen’s favourite water, setting about bottling it in a fashion which befits the quality and history that is associated with Malvern Water. Coca-Cola’s then decided to withdraw from Malvern Water in 2010, which spurred on Mike and Rhys’s passion and responsibility to ensure Malvern’s Water remained available for generations to come.

You will find many springs around Malvern and the Hills and some have been well restored such as the Beauchamp Spout in Cowleigh Road and the well-known fountain  Malvhina at Belle Vue Island, but others are more obscure, so finding them is an interesting treasure hunt!

The Abbey Gateway

Malvern Abbey GatewayReferred to locally as the Abbey Gateway built around 1430, it is the second oldest building in Malvern after the Norman Priory Church.

It is the only remaining building from the 12th-century Benedictine monastery that was destroyed in 1539 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII. This medieval jewel in Malvern is home to Malvern’s small Museum and is filled with exhibits on all aspect of Malvern’s history and how it developed. There is an insight into geology,  the 19th Century era of the water cure and items from the town’s famous defence research establishment, where wartime radar was developed.

For more information:

 Great Malvern Station

Malvern-StationGreat Malvern station was built by the Worcester and Hereford Railway in 1860 and the current buildings were completed in 1862. The buildings are in local Malvern Rag stone and copy a French Gothic theme and a particular feature of the station are the awning pillar capitals on both platforms. This Victorian station decorated with high relief mouldings depicting different arrangements of flowers and foliage celebrated its 150th birthday in 2010. There is a small cafe on the platform.

Orchard Side Bed and Breakfast is only about 5 miles from Great Malvern so offers a great base when exploring Malvern and the magnificent Malvern hills.

Priory Park in Great Malvern

Malvern priory park bandstandThese gardens were formally the gardens for the Priory Mansion, built in 1874. Today, the mansion is a Council office and Priory Park borders the Malvern Theatre complex, the Malvern Splash Leisure Complex, and the Council House. Previously known as the Winter Gardens, Priory Park is filled with magnificent mature trees, a large duck pond spanned by a couple of wooden bridges and a Victorian bandstand that was built in 1875 and restored in the 1980s. The bandstand sits proudly in the park and hosts free Sunday afternoon concerts during the summer months.

Lots of the beautiful trees in the park were planted almost 150 years ago when gardeners loved to plant exotic trees from other parts of the world. A children’s playground is located in one corner of the park next to a beautiful wooden carving, created by Tom Harvey from a tree which had to be felled.

You can access Priory Park from Grange Road or Priory Road or walk through the theatre complex to the rear and enter the park that way.

Rose Bank Gardens in Great Malvern

Malvern sculpture buzzardsThe Rose Bank Gardens overlook Great Malvern and sit on the edge of the Malvern Hills. It was initially part of a Regency House called Rose Bank. It was gifted to Malvern in 1918 by Mr Dyson Perrins but was demolished in 1959.

Today it forms part of the ‘Route to the Malvern Hills‘ starting at Great Malvern Station and offers access to the Malvern Hills and St Ann’s Well via a ‘99 steps’ footpath. In the garden, there is a terraced pathway Victorian gas lamps, excellent views over the town, The Priory, Abbey Gateway and the Abbey Hotel. The magnificent Diamond Jubilee Sculpture of Two Buzzards by Walenty Pytel can be seen from the road and is quite magnificent. Rose Bank Gardens are on Belle Vue Terrace, next to the Mount Pleasant Hotel.

Great Malvern theatre of Small Convenience

Malvern theatre of convenience Said to be the smallest theatre in the world as stated in the 2002 Guinness Book of Records.

The theatre is situated on Edith Walk in the centre of Great Malvern and has been host to a great variety of theatrical experience. Dennis Neale, the founder opened this Malvern theatre in November 1999 and has had performances both professional and amateur. Dennis is a keen puppeteer and drama enthusiast Dennis so runs the theatre as an independent and non-profit-making project to offer drama, puppetry, poetry, story-telling, music and monologues, and even a day of opera!

Entering this unique theatre you feel as though you are stepping through a magic door into a quaint theatrical style interior marked by Italian -commedia dell’arte and painted walls of summer skies, blue seas and wild greenery, which all add depth and drama to the atmosphere. The theatre only holds a dozen people afore an unconventional stage, it’s very sweet!

Gas Lamps in Great Malvern

Malvern Gas LampsWhen you visit Malvern the famous working gas lamps (over 80) will be seen all over the town. You will see gas lamps in Great Malvern Town Centre on the Belle Vue Island, in the Priory Churchyard, and along the Wells Road, (A449), Malvern Wells, Holywell Road, and in West Malvern. If you have read ‘Narnia’ by C. S. Lewis’s the Malvern gas lamps were featured as a result of him attending Malvern College as a schoolboy. The Malvern Tourist Information Centre sells a small Gas Lamp Trail guide to assist you in searching out, these rare survivor’s from an earlier era.

 Morgan Motor Company Factory Tour

morgan carsEnjoy a visit to the Morgan Motor Company on an organised Factory Tour. Morgan is the country’s longest-surviving family owned car manufacturer and celebrates over 100 years of driving passion and craftsmanship that goes into the making of a Morgan sports car.

Each year over 30,000 people come to the factory from all over the world to take part in the Guided Tour of the Morgan Motor Company Factory. During the tour, you get to visit the workshops and see a Morgans Sports Car being handmade. In the museum, you are able to peruse at your leisure and visit the Morgan gift shop and café to make the most of your experience.

For more information:

Little Malvern Priory

Little Malvern PrioryNot to be confused with The Priory in Great Malvern this 15th-century church is in Little Malvern on the B4104 just below British Camp.

Little Malvern was founded by a priory of Benedictine monks around the year 1125. Originally called St Giles Priory it was dissolved under Henry VIII in 1534 but was already in poor condition by this time with only 6 monks remaining. The monastic buildings were purchased by the Berrington family who had the manor house of Little Malvern Court built from the remains of the Prior’s Hall and the cloisters. The monastic grounds became the gardens for the new Court. The family paid for a new roof to restore the church after it collapsed in 1864 and today you can visit on certain days to visit the beautiful gardens and Priory, however, you can visit the Priory church most days.

Little Malvern Court & Gardens is open every Wednesday and Thursday at 2:15 pm until 5:00 pm from the 19th April to 20th July.

If you plan to visit the area you will find Orchard Side Bed and Breakfast the perfect base when exploring Great Malvern and the Malvern Hills. Located in the beautiful village of Hanley Swan, its just a 2-minute walk from the famous gastro pub, The Swan, offering you the perfect ‘escape to the country‘ weekend.

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